International Football

Building on Title History, Germany’s Bundesliga Looks for Fans Abroad

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Germany's professional soccer teams want to build on their leagues increasing prominence and victories such as the German national team's 2014 World Cup championship.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    More German soccer clubs hope to become international brands and earn more money to buy top players.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Some German soccer, or football, clubs travel abroad in the off-season to play international games.
    • The German Football League (DFL) says it wants to build an international German football brand and generate more income from international marketing.
    • In terms of revenue, Germany’s top soccer division, the Bundesliga, wants to move up to rank fourth internationally, rivaling Britain’s Premier League and Major League Basketball.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

Handelsblatt: Mr. Seifert, the Bavarian soccer team just completed a tour of the United States, and the Leverkusen club spent some time in South Korea. All this travelling and time abroad seems like an enormous effort and expense, especially for the players. Why all the hassle?

Christian Seifert: Today, football is part of the international entertainment industry. You shouldn’t set national limits and confine yourself to only operating within your own country.

What is the added value for Bayern Munich  to play in Portland?

In the medium and long-term, playing outside your own country will reap returns. We are building international brands in this way. Germany’s top soccer division, the Bundesliga, is far behind in that respect.

What do you mean?

Adidas just signed a kit supplier contract with the English club Manchester United for €90 million ($120 million). Puma pays Arsenal €30 million every year. These sums come not just from the popularity that these clubs have in their home country but also from their international reputation. Firms such as Adidas can tap into markets that an international name like Manchester United opens.

 

Portland Game
The Bavarian allstars play the Major League Soccer in a game in Portland, Oregon. Source: AP.

 

Is England’s top football division, the Premier League, setting the standards?

I wouldn’t say that. The Premier League makes €800 million from television broadcast rights abroad; it leads in revenue internationally. By comparison, the Bundesliga, which makes €70 million per year, is ranked seven among all major sports, after the Premier League, the NBA, the Primera Division, the ultimate fighting series UFC, the A series and the Major League Basketball.

What goals do you have?

Our medium-term goal is to move up the ranks to number four and generate revenues of between €200 and 250 million a year. In the 2015-2016 season, we will definitely make a leap forward. We reckon with revenues of €100 to 150 million and hope to move further up the ranks with that sum.

Where will additional revenue come from?

The pie for international media rights is getting bigger and we want a bigger slice of it. Asia and North America are becoming increasingly important. These regions generate 40 percent of global revenue and soon as much as 50 percent. By comparison, Europe’s share is decreasing.

No money in the world can outweigh the wear and tear of a trip abroad after a long season and shortly before a new one. Do you see limits for travelling abroad?

Of course, there is always a thin line. Every soccer club in the world wants to be successful. But if 110, 000 viewers come to a game between Real Madrid and Manchester United, as was recently the case in Michigan, it’s imaginable to combine some travel with a successful season.

 

“Today, football is part of the international entertainment industry. You shouldn’t set national limits and confine yourself to only operating within your own country.”

Christian Seifert, Chief Executive, German Football League

So nothing will work without short trips abroad in the future?

For clubs, such as Bavaria, Dortmund, Schalke or Leverkusen, with their Champions League ambitions, having an international presence will become increasingly important.

Only through these exhibition games and special events abroad will these clubs be able to strengthen their international market potential and compete with big international football clubs. Depending on the type of league, around 40 to 70 percent of the income flows right into the players’ squad. Players and their agents don’t really care whether their income comes from international or national proceeds.

Even though non-German clubs make more money from international television broadcast rights, Bavaria and Dortmund are still big international brands. Why do you claim that national revenues are relatively low?

At the moment, they are not too low but they will be if we rest on our laurels. Germany is Europe’s biggest internal market. That’s why sponsoring revenue is higher here than in the other countries. And that is how we were able to offset the weakness of our pay TV market and the backlog we are experiencing with marketing ourselves internationally. Advertising markets are becoming more global. The size of national markets is not what determines success – as Manchester United clearly showed recently.

 

Biography

Christian Seifert, age 45, studied communications, marketing and sociology at the University of Essen. He started working at Kirch Media in Munich before heading off to MTV  where he worked from 1998 to 2000. After 5 years at Karstadt-Quelle AG, he became chief executive at the German Football League (DFL) in Frankfurt.

 

German Footballl League (DFL)

The German Football League is responsible for the gaming operations, the licensing and the marketing of the first and second football leagues in Germany.

 

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